Seattle U enters the conference season as the top team in the WAC in the NCAA’s RPI ratings.

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Don’t pay attention to her team’s 6-9 record as it begins Western Athletic Conference play, said Seattle University women’s basketball coach Suzy Barcomb.

And the second-year coach seems to have a very good point.

Last season, in her first year at Seattle U, the Redhawks were 3-12 in nonconference play, then finished second in the WAC.

Saturday

Seattle U women @ Grand Canyon, 1 p.m.

Not only did this year’s team win three more games in nonconference play, it enters the conference season as the top team in the conference in the NCAA’s RPI ratings, and only Utah Valley at 10-5 has a winning record among WAC teams.

“When you look at it truthfully, we were really only out of the games against Hawaii and UC Davis,” said Barcomb, whose team opens conference play at Grand Canyon on Saturday. “We had so many close ones where we were right there and they could have gone either way. But I think playing against all those teams from different conferences will allow us to be ready for anything and everything the WAC throws at us.”

It certainly helps that Seattle U has the conference’s most productive player, Alexis Montgomery, who is averaging 21.8 points and 10.3 rebounds. The 5-foot-10 senior wing leads the WAC in both categories and is 11th in the nation in scoring and 27th in rebounding and is one of four players averaging a double-double.

Montgomery also leads Seattle U in steals (30) and blocked shots (seven) and is second in assists (2.7 a game).

“Alex is having a terrific year,” Barcomb said. “There is not more that she could do for us on both ends of the floor — averaging a double-double, and playing way too many minutes (34.3 a game). But that’s where we are with injuries. I’d like to have her at 30-32 minutes a game.

“That might prove helpful in her recovery from games, but she wants to win just as badly as the coaches.”

Barcomb said it helps that the team is in its second year of using the Princeton offense, which emphasizes constant movement and passing and requires players to understand how to read the defense.

“And this year the coaching staff is more familiar with the WAC, and we have a better idea what it takes to win,” she said.

The pace of games has slowed in the past couple of weeks, allowing Barcomb to have practices where the focus is on getting better, rather than preparing for the next opponent.

“You need days to practice to get better,” she said. “We have been focusing so much on prep for games that we’ve had very little practice.”

Barcomb likes to set goals. Her perfect goal for nonconference play was 10-5 and her less-than-perfect goal was 8-7. The Redhawks fell short, but there is now a different perfect goal: just two losses in the WAC.

Seattle U will learn quickly how realistic that is, starting conference action with its first three games on the road. After playing in Phoenix at Grand Canyon, it travels next week to Chicago State and Missouri-Kansas City.

“That’s brutal,” Barcomb said of the starting stretch. “But you’ve got to play everybody.”

NCAA RPI rankings
Rating Percentage Index (RPI) rankings for teams in the WAC:
Team RPI W-L
Seattle U 204 6-9
Texas-Rio Grande 233 10-5
New Mexico St. 239 6-8
Cal State- Bakersfield 258 6-8
Missouri-K.C. 278 4-11
Grand Canyon 285 6-8
Chicago State 329 0-15
Utah Valley 333 6-9
NCAA.com